Friday, November 18, 2016

Getting back on my feet

A few months ago, not long after I lost my job, I decided to throw myself into fitness. I needed something to keep me busy.

Since I can remember, I've always felt a little "catch" in my hip joint -- or what I always assumed was my hip flexor -- when doing certain moves, specifically bicycle crunches. Not a pain, per se... but a "twang" ... as if a rubber band was being snapped.

Add in a lot of lunches and squats, and well, there's a lot of action in my hip joint.

One day, while walking down the street with Wil, I got a sharp pain in my hip that hurt so much we had to turn around and go home. I hadn't stumbled or tripped, hadn't stepped badly off a curb -- it just suddenly hurt.

I figured I had just overdone it in boot camp or something ... and figured that I would be fine after a couple of days rest. But a few days became a week, then two. I would wake up in the night with pain in my hip. And, at the height of my pain, if I got in my car, I had to lift my left leg into the car with my arms. Something I remember seeing my dad do after he fell and broke his hip. Walking was painful; running impossible.

I broke down at that point and went to the UW Sports Medicine Clinic.

sing along if you know it!
Dr. Wilder examined me and then ordered an x-ray, just to rule out anything crazy.

Nothing obvious here, but interesting to note that, while neither hip is bad yet, the right hip has more arthritis. Something to look forward to...

Rationalizing that treatment would always start with physical therapy on the area, Dr. Wilder referred me to Therapeutic Associates in Ballard for ten sessions, asking me to check back in after 5 or 6 weeks.

That's where I met Emily Wood, my physical therapist. Over the next several weeks, Emily gave me exercises and stretches to do at home, monitoring my progress and cheering me on. We tried a few additional things, like wearing KT tape -- guaranteed to make anyone feel like a boss -- and ASTYM, a "scraping" therapy that hurts, feels great, good heavens it hurts, feels great, etc. But while I got stronger and had less pain, things still weren't back to normal.

I went back to check in with Dr. Wilder, and she recommended I have an MRI to see what was going on with the soft tissue. More specifically a MR Arthrogram, where dye is injected into the joint.

My helpful pamphlet tells me that: 
An MR Arthrogram is a form of MRI that demonstrates the joint space in even greater detail than a standard MRI by filling the joint with a specialized fluid... Because some of the joint structures appear dark on MRI, it can be difficult to assess parts of the joint on a routine MRI. When these dark structures are separated by fluid that appears bright on an MRI, the contrast dye significantly improves the ability to diagnose abnormalities of these structures.
Dr. Wilder also recommended that, while I was there, I get a cortisone shot in my hip --- reasoning that they would already have the needle in my hip joint to inject the dye, so....

A couple days later I was lying on a table, watching a technician insert a needle deep in my hip joint and trying not to flinch. You'll forgive me for not having a picture of this, k? Again, here's my helpful pamphlet's description:
First, a procedure is performed under x-ray ("fluoroscopic") guidance whereby a needle is used to access the joint. Iodine "x-ray contrast dye" is injected to confirm that the joint has been properly accessed. This is followed by gadolinium "MRI contrast dye" that makes the fluid look bright on an MRI.
The dye injected, it was time for the MRI. I lay on the table and was half swaddled, half immobilized by cushions, warm blankets. Amusingly, to keep my legs in the slightly awkward position required, my feet were masking-taped together. I must have looked AMAZING.

The experience of the MRI was jarring -- the machine makes a lot of loud clunks and whines and whirrs ... each one different. It all felt very mechanical. My job was to just lie absolutely still. One of the "imaging passes" sounded almost exactly like an old fashioned klaxon / evacuation alarm. I just lay still, wondering if the building was on fire and everyone else had fled. I started counting to 120, having been told that each pass took about two minutes, and figuring that if it didn't end, I'd just get up and run. When I mentioned it to the technician afterwards, he said, "Don't worry, I would't have left you."

A few days later, we had the results. The good news was no labral tear. The bad news is that we're still not 100% sure what's up, other than a "mild chondrolabral separation/degeneration". Which means, my hip has some tissue generation, but nothing that can be repaired. 

side view of my hip

straight on cross-section
That said, the cortisone definitely helped -- and not just because I felt like a badass for having STEROIDS injected in my HIP JOINT. NFL, here I come!

Emily says that the cortisone helped me get ahead of the inflammation -- to heal faster. While in Britain I was able to ramble along the Welsh Coast and through the Yorkshire Dales, so clearly I'm feeling better. And this week Emily put me through my pass on a "return to run" program. I passed all 8 tests, so I am cleared to run again!

(Which is good because, well, I'm on week 2 of the NHS Couch to 5K program...) 

A confession that will surprise very few people: I don't run very often at the best of times. I mean, if someone isn't going to hand me a medal at the end, why run? So getting back to running -- even these tiny baby steps -- has been great. And, as of today, I have run FIVE times in ELEVEN days. Despite not being given a medal. I'm proud of sticking with it ... but, obviously, I have so far to go. I hope that my hip holds up -- so far, so good -- and I can stay on track. Here's hoping that 2017 is the year of the runner again!

1 comment:

  1. 5 times in 11 days is great!! keep up the good work. It's great that you're running again.